Principal investigator Panagiotis Z. Anastasiadis, Ph.D., and his research team in the Cell Adhesion and Metastasis Laboratory study cancer biology, with an ultimate goal of developing new therapies that can control the progression and spread of tumors.

Special research focus areas in Dr. Anastasiadis' lab include p120 catenin, the cadherin-catenin complex, and Rho GEFs and polarity complexes.

Almost without exception, what makes cancer lethal is not the primary tumor but rather metastasis — the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Although the process of metastasis is not well-understood, it is strongly associated with the loss of a protein called E-cadherin. E-cadherin normally acts to hold cells together and is indispensable for the proper organization of tissues and organs in the body. When cancer cells lose the function of this protein during tumor progression, they disorganize, change shape and become more migratory and invasive.

Our laboratory is investigating the mechanisms that cause loss of E-cadherin function in cancer cells and how E-cadherin accessory proteins promote cancer spread.

We are particularly interested in the role of one such protein, called p120 catenin (p120). When bound to E-cadherin, p120 strengthens the bonds between cells. When not associated with E-cadherin, it induces cell movement and invasiveness.

Our goal is to extend our initial findings to effective treatments that prevent cancer from spreading, which ultimately could increase long-term survival for patients.

Interestingly, p120 is the prototypic member of a family of proteins that interact with cadherins and play important roles in cell adhesion, cytoskeletal remodeling, cell migration, neurite morphogenesis, synapse formation and neuronal plasticity. With an extensive array of techniques and reagents, our lab is uniquely situated to make significant advances to our understanding of these critical biological processes.

About Dr. Anastasiadis

In addition to his role as principal investigator, Dr. Anastasiadis is a professor of cancer biology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Anastasiadis is affiliated with many other areas of research at Mayo Clinic and is also chair of the Department of Cancer Biology in Jacksonville, where principal investigators work collaboratively with clinical colleagues throughout Mayo Clinic to understand the biology of human cancer and translate their findings into new clinical trials and novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.